The term ‘Emotional Intelligence’ was first used by best-selling author Daniel Goleman. The idea behind the phrase was so compelling that his book of the same name remained on the New York Times best seller list for over a year.

But why did his idea create such a buzz, and what made the sentiment so compelling? Employers and recruiters recognised that testing a candidate’s emotional intelligence (EI) level could help them decide on their suitability for a role, and EI has since become a key indicator during many recruitment procedures.

So what constitutes emotional intelligence?

Daniel Goleman named five specific character traits that define our levels of emotional intelligence:

  • Motivation: self-motivation to be more precise, rather than being motivated by money or other outside influences
  • Social skill: building rapport with people and engendering trust so that working relationships become stronger
  • Self awareness: understanding how our actions affect other people and the environment we are in, as well as the ability to put constructive criticism to good use
  • Empathy: an understanding and genuine compassion for others that also leads to trusting relationships
  • Self management: being able to identify how we are feeling, and control the way in which we communicate those feelings and emotions to others at work

He discovered that these traits, which are commonly seen in natural leaders, can also be learned. By focusing on each one in turn, and having access to honest and accurate feedback, it is possible to improve levels of emotional intelligence to such a degree that it makes team members into leaders.

EI in the workplace and how it makes a difference

As far as the workplace is concerned, having the motivation to succeed is an important part of becoming a future leader. But employers also need to know that a new recruit will easily blend in with an existing team, and work to build a strong rapport with colleagues.

Empathy and social skills combine to provide a ‘softer’ but equally important side to leadership. Without the ability to see another’s point of view, a team will never gel or produce the results that are needed.

Employing an emotionally intelligent workforce can be the catalyst for excellence rather than remaining mediocre. When everyone works well together, and is able to deal professionally with the inevitable conflicts and power struggles that occur in the workplace, the path to full effectiveness as a business becomes clearer.

Organisational benefits of developing employees’ emotional intelligence

Forming a strategy to develop emotional intelligence in the workforce is an investment rather than a cost. Committed employees who value their role within the company and are motivated to succeed, will make sales, bring in more business, and leave a positive impression of the company on anyone they meet.

Business team

A range of significant benefits is also waiting for organisations that use emotional intelligence as a marker for recruitment:

  • Increased sales
  • Greater staff retention
  • A happy and settled workforce
  • Enhanced customer service levels
  • Effective inter-personal relationships at work
  • Improved morale
  • Unique business branding

Some companies base all their recruitment decisions on candidates’ emotional intelligence levels, particularly those with prominent sales teams. Sales team members with high levels of EI often interact better with prospects than their peers, the end result being an increase in sales and profits.

Relating well to customers, colleagues, managers and their team as a whole, not only makes the working day more enjoyable, it also injects a sense of purpose for all concerned.

Emotional intelligence in the new workplace

A changing workplace where remote working is often the norm, makes emotional intelligence all the more important. By not always having face-to-face contact with employees, leaders need to use their social skills and empathy in new ways to incorporate the inevitable problems that this way of working brings.

For those working in a team, but remotely at home, motivation becomes one of the most important aspects of emotional intelligence, a lack of which could ultimately threaten the long-term success of the business.

Keeping emotions in check at work

A range of negative emotions associated with the workplace can surface at any time, and may be the result of poor management or dissatisfaction with the company in general, but feeling like a victim does not help anyone in this situation.

Being able to manage emotions at work, both positive and negative, is central to the concept of emotional intelligence, and allows employees to fulfil their potential without causing unnecessary issues with others.

So what is more important – EQ or IQ? A good balance of both brings the best results for organisational performance, but it is often the soft skills of knowing how to treat people that are remembered by others, rather than a particular level of intelligence.

Originally published in Management by author John Baird


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